More than 6,000 pupils and 400 members of staff in Oldham were absent from school today after being ordered to self-isolate, it has been revealed.
A total of 199 school bubbles were affected, with almost 14pc of the borough’s schoolchildren forced to remain at home, according to Oldham council.
Compared to last week, when 4,109 pupils were isolating, there has been an increase of more than 2,000 pupils out of the classroom.
The worrying picture has prompted council’s leader Arooj Shah to add her voice to calls for an urgent review of the government’s approach to self-isolation.
School leaders in Greater Manchester have already raised concerns over the ‘devastating’ impact bubble closure are having on pupils.
Coun Shah said: “With more and more of Oldham’s school children having to self-isolate something must be done to get them back in the classroom where they should be.
“It cannot be overstated how much of an impact not being able to go to school is having on these children and their education.
“We run the risk of having a generation of young people left behind not just here in Oldham, but elsewhere in Greater Manchester and in similar areas where rates of self-isolation are much higher than in other parts of the country.
“I’m calling on government to commit to a new plan to address the ongoing inequality that these school children are now facing.
“We need a new approach that minimises the impact on children’s education and we need it now, not in three weeks’ time.
“We also need a plan for fair catch up funding so that we can try to ensure Oldham’s young people aren’t held back as a result of this pandemic.”
Oldham’s coronavirus infection rate stood at 343 per 100,000 people in the week up to June 26 – an increase of 49pc on the previous seven days.
The current number of infections in the borough is more than double the national average and has led to a rise in cases in its schools.
Earlier this week, the M.E.N. reported that more than 400 pupils were having to isolate at Newman RC College.
Managing Director of Children and Young People for Oldham council, Gerard Jones, said: “Every day in school counts. Whilst support is still being given to those self-isolating at home, it’s no substitute for being in school.
“If exams go ahead as planned next year, children in places such as Oldham, who have missed more school than their peers in more affluent parts of the country which have had lower rates of coronavirus will find themselves put at even more of a disadvantage.
“The trial of the Daily Contact Testing in schools came to an end last week. This would keep children in school even if they are contacts.
“We’re asking that the findings of this programme are communicated to us as soon as possible, and this is rolled out as standard if the evidence shows it is safe.
“We’re also asking the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to come to a decision as soon as possible on whether 12+ year olds should be vaccinated so that we can ensure we maximise take-up ready for the start of the new school year.”
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“We need a proper plan in place now and one for September as well to give us the support we need to help these children.”
Families and school leaders across Greater Manchester have this week backed plans for self-isolation rules to be scrapped.
As the number of schools affected by positive Covid cases continue to rise, some youngsters have had numerous rounds of remote learning.
Currently, children have to self-isolate for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble tests positive for coronavirus.
But, the Department for Education has reportedly written to secondary schools asking them provisionally to prepare for a change after the summer break in order to keep as many children in face-to-face classes as possible.